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The Bush Record on Human Rights in Iraq

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Dave Gross

Jan 29, 1991, 7:47:56 PM1/29/91

The Bush Record on Human Rights in Iraq -- by Dave Gross
Last year, only months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, Congress was
debating sanctions against Iraq. Congressmen Howard Berman, Dan Glickman,
Daniel Inouye and Alfonse D'Amato, and others angered by Iraq's dismal human
rights record and belligerant actions, pushed bills or amendments which would
restrict trade with Iraq.

But while Congress worked to pass sanctions against Iraq, the Bush
Administration opposed sanctions and tried to cozy up to Iraqi leader Saddam

The Bush Administration had long opposed the comparatively hard-line
that Congress took when dealing with Iraq. In late 1989, Congress voted to
bar U.S. Export-Import Bank credits to Iraq. By January of 1990, President
Bush had waived this ban.

As a way of showing it's gratitude, Saddam Hussein in March executed
a western journalist, and was caught that month trying to buy nuclear weapons
triggers in the U.S. and components of a massive gun in Great Britain.

By April, Congress was ready again to slap Baghdad with sanctions,
and again the Bush Administration was opposed. One senior administration
official was quoted as saying of Hussein that "it is certainly better to
deal with him than not. He is more moderate than he was in the past and there
is a good chance he will be more moderate in the future."

To reassure Saddam Hussein that he had the Bush Administration's
support, despite Congressional misgivings, Bush sent influential Republican
Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Dole to deliver a conciliatory message to
the Iraqi leader in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

At the time, the deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs
Edward W. Gnehm made it clear that the administration opposed sanctions. By
later that month, Assistant Secretary of State John H. Kelly was dispatched
to the House of Representatives to speak against the sanctions package being
proposed there. Kelly proposed "a trial period to see whether there's a
potential for improvements in their behavior and in our relationship." To
encourage improvements in behavior, perhaps, President Bush sent Hussein what
was called a "message of friendship" at the end of the Islamic holy month of

About this time, Saddam Hussein was busy bragging about his chemical
weapons arsenal and threatening to "burn up half of Israel" with it.

But by June 15th, Kelly must have still been hopeful, because he was
back at it again, this time testifying before a Senate committee that sanctions
against Iraq would interfere with the United States' "restraining influence on
Iraqi actions."

Senator Alfonse D'Amato would have nothing of this. Saddam, he said,
is "a butcher, a killer, a bully -- some day we're going to have to stand up
to him. Why not now?" By this time, Iraq was already massing troops on the
Kuwaiti border and making military threats against it's neighbor. And right
about this same time, our ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie had her now-famous
meeting with Hussein in which she said:

"We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border
disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American embassy in
Kuwait during the late 60s. The instruction we had during this
period was that we should express no opinion on this issue, and
that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has
directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction."

Place this in the context of the Bush Administration's championing of
Iraq and it's easy forgiveness of Hussein's previous military adventures and
human rights atrocities against Iran and the native Kurds, and you can see why
Hussein probably thought he could get away with an invasion, and that the Bush
Administration would, if not support Hussein, at least look the other way.

Now, after the invasion, Bush, the opponent of sanctions, now insists
that sanctions are not enough and that war is necessary to drive back the
"Butcher of Baghdad." He reads from Amnesty International reports as if
he were a champion of human rights -- casually ignoring the fact that pre-
invasion reports by Amnesty International were equally graphic and horrible.

{ Update -- Today (1/29/91) some campus newspapers printed a response by AI
executive director John G. Healey to a letter to student papers by
Bush printed by many campus papers shortly after our attack (1/15/91).

Bush, in his letter, used an Amnesty International report on Iraq
to justify his military actions. Healey called this an "opportunistic
manipulation of the international human rights movement" and asked why
Bush ignored previous AI reports about Iraq.

"There was no presidential indignation, for example in 1989, when
Amnesty released its findings about the torture of Iraqi children.
And just a few weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, the Bush
administration refused to conclude that Iraq had engaged in a
consistent pattern of gross human rights violations," Healey wrote.

Healey also mentioned the human rights abuses in Turkey, Egypt,
Israel, Morocco, and elsewhere, and asked why Bush is silent on
these issues." }

Some people compare Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler and accuse those
members of Congress who were reluctant to go to war of "appeasement." When
all is said and done, however, and history looks back on this preventable war,
it will be President George Bush who will take the blame for appeasing this
dictator with U.S. funds and with nods and winks.

If the world had stood up to Hitler soon enough, there might not have
been a World War II. Similarly, it was Bush's refusal to accept the ounce of
prevention that the Congressional sanctions packages might have been that led
this country into the Gulf War.

************************ dgr...@polyslo.CalPoly.EDU ***************************
"Protection ... against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there
needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and
feeling..." -- John Stuart Mill

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